Ask the Expert – Setting the Stage with Lights

When you meet Jen Baker, it’s very quick to see she has a passion for stage lighting.  She serves as the Lighting Designer at Ridgecrest Conference Center and has been involved with technical services for eleven years.  Lighting is more than a job for her – in fact, when I asked her how she views her work with lighting as a ministry, she said:

One of the first things God created was light.  I have always taken that as without light we cannot see the beauty of the Master Artist and His creation.  Light has the power to illuminate, sculpt and create an atmosphere.  Lighting is a tool that can be used to help break down the barriers during worship and create a safe place for people to enter in worship.  My place as a lighting designer is to visually interpret the message being communicated, whether in song or spoken word.

Needless to say, Jen knows lights and knows them well.  I recently spoke with her about elements of lighting for events of various sizes.  Here are some of the highlights I took from our discussion:

  • Utilize color schemes to create the atmosphere/mood of your session. You can create a warm, cozy feeling with warm tones such as soft white, amber, oranges, purples and reds.  High energy effects can be created through yellows, oranges, greens, whites, light blues and pinks.  For a slower, more intimate time, utilize blues, pinks, purples, reds and some greens.  When in doubt, always start with blue or white.  It is a good, neutral color that works well for any type of atmosphere.
  • If you have a contemporary band, a few lights in the right place with some uplighting and backlight can give you the same experience as a big stage, in a more intimate setting.  If you just have a speaker, lights across the back wall, on either side of the projector screen or around the room can make the room less boring, more intimate and give your audience something to look at.
  • If you have banners or a small stage design, adding lights to highlight can make it pop. It will draw attention from the first moment your guests enter.
  • You don’t have to use only stage lighting to enhance your set – you can use lamps, LED rope lights or candles that change colors.
  • Always be strategic in where you place your lighting or what you are highlighting. You can get away with fewer fixtures by doing this.
  • Don’t let it get you down if someone doesn’t like the color choice or effect you choose. You will never please everyone.  Individual audience members differ in their sensitivity.
  • If you have a worship leader, try to work with them and help create an atmosphere that enhances their song choices.
  • When it comes to power, make sure you get enough extension cords to make everything neat. Always buy black.  Nothing is worse than bright orange extension cords running across the front of a room.
  • The most important thing of all: Gaff Tape!  Do not use duct tape to tape down cords.  It leaves residue; gaff tape will not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Jen, it’s that you can do a ton of creative things with lighting to enhance your event space.  You don’t have to be an expert in technology to incorporate basic additions with lights.  While we will leave the large event spaces to the professionals, you would be surprised what a few lights and a little practice can do!

 

 

Lighting For Your Events

You’re perception of lights is probably that yeah you need some, but you don’t really know how much or what kind of lights that are needed for your event. Just like sound lighting is a specialized area that is important not to leave out. Lights can enhance an event or make it plain blah.

When you’re planning your event, here’s a few things to keep in mind for lights:

  1. What kind of talent will you have at your event? If the event only features authors or speakers, then your event might be able to get away with a spotlight or two. But if you’re having an artist or band, bringing in more lights is very much encouraged and needed to make their time special. (Side note: The act should have a rider that spells out lighting needs. If you did not receive one of these, asking the booking agent you worked with for one.)
  2. What is your budget? Sure you want your event to look fantastic with fancy movers and an LED wall, but that’s going to cost some money. Do you have the budget for that? More lights equals more money.
  3. What do you want the stage to look like? That’s a big determining factor for lights. If you’re going for something dark and moody or you want something bright and cheerful, you need lights that reflect that attitude you’re trying to achieve.

We’ve talked before about communicating your needs to your sound engineer, but discussing light needs with a great LD (lighting designer) is just as important. When you have an idea of what you want your event to look like (number 3 above), communicating that to LD will help you fulfill your needs. Those LDs will have experiences that could even lead you down a different path.

What has been your experience working with lighting designers in the past?